When the first website went online in 1991 a new era began. The world wide web, and the internet in general, has slowly permeated into every aspect of our lives. Many Americans are tethered to this massive network of information every minute of their waking days utilizing laptops, tablets, and phones. The internet has become the go-to source for accessing even the smallest tidbit of trivia from our global consciousness.
In addition to altering our day-to-day lives, nothing short of the industrial revolution has had a bigger impact on our businesses. Email, e-commerce, collaboration tools of every imaginable type, and video and audio conferencing fill our working hours. Some people no longer even go to the office as they are able to access every resource they need right from the comfort of their home and laptop.
Small businesses may have been a bit slower to get swept into this web of change, but the mom and pop store down the street is no exception. iPads replace cash registers every day and customers rely on online reviews to decide where to eat and which brand to buy. In fact, reports have been released saying that as early at 2010, already 97% of US consumers were doing research online before making purchases locally.
Despite this overwhelming consumer demand for information about businesses, the US Census Bureau reported in 2012 that over 75% of all businesses in the country still did not have their own website. How can this be?
The answers from the same survey may surprise you. The overwhelming reason was not the cost (19%), complexity (9%), or lack of time (16%), the number one reason that businesses do not have a website (41%) is that the owners do not think their business needs one!
So before we dig into the fine details about how to get your business onto the web, let’s spend a little time making sure that everyone understands why they need a website.
In the last post, we began discussing how many businesses still operate without a website, despite overwhelming statistics about consumers turning to the web before purchasing goods and services.
Today we are going to look at some specific reasons why your small business should have its own website.
As demonstrated by the massive amount of consumers researching online prior to making purchases, your customers expect to be able to find information about your company online. This information should be tailored to their needs and very easy to find.
Some business owners try to argue that they already have a profile on yelp.com and a Facebook page, so why do they need a website? This one is easy. Your own website will be the only online information over which you have full control. User reviews and comments are great, but shouldn’t you be the one to have the final say about what information about your company is presented to the public? Having a website for your company instantly creates an official presence on the internet.
Many small businesses rely on YellowPage ads and listings to get their name out there. No one is going to tell them to remove their listings, but is purchasing an ad in the ever-shrinking and increasingly expensive directory the best use of funds? Website costs are decreasing every year and have a global potential reach which leads us to the next point.
Exist Beyond Your Geographic Region:
With a website, your business exists far beyond the walls of your office or store. A website is viewable anywhere in the world or right in front of your door. The growing prominence of the mobile web is increasing this every day as well. Worldwide, there are nearly 2.5 billion people using the internet, and obviously, they all will not see your website, but there is nothing stopping them from doing so.
Interaction with Existing or Potential Customers:
Not only are all of these people able to see your website, but they can also interact with you through it. Using email, contact forms, guestbooks and social media outlets, you can talk with customers from the other side of the globe, get feedback about your new products and services, or even ship orders thousands of miles away.
Level the Playing Field:
Although the budgets and project scopes vary, there is no real difference between the website of a Fortune 500 company and that of a freelancer working from the couch in his living room. A clean and professional looking website completely levels the playing field as you can present yourself and your company anyway that you like. If your company is able to help meet the needs of a customer, why do they need to know if your team is 3 people or 300?
Additional Revenue Opportunity:
This reason is intentionally listed last. While a website can be an additional source of revenue from online sales and even advertisements, this probably should not be your main concern when creating a website unless that is your entire business plan and you’ve done the due diligence necessary to make it work. If you are primarily a brick and mortar business, consider online sales a nice bonus, but don’t push your efforts away from what is already working for you.
The case for having a website in today’s world is very strong. Looking at a slightly larger picture, and considering all of the businesses that already have a website, there appears to be a large disconnect about how to properly use it. Just as many businesses themselves fail, so do many small business websites, often for very preventable reasons. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll continue this conversation to arm you with all the knowledge necessary to not only get your business online but to succeed with it.